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Earlier in the week I had switched the Weymouth curb on MJ's bridle, from the Fager Elisabeth titanium Weymouth with the little vertical to the lips “port”, to the Fager Felicia titanium Weymouth whose port is angled at a 45° angle, with the top of the port to the rear. I kept the Fager Alice titanium double jointed bradoon with the roller in the center link on the bridle. I was all eager to see how MJ would react to the new bit!

But when I stepped out of my front door on Wednesday my plans changed. It was so much hotter and so much more humid than last week, and I knew that there was no way I could follow my usual introductory routine of keeping contact with just the curb bit for several steps. In my opinion this is an important step in introducing a curb bit to show the horse that it is safe to reach out and take a light contact with the curb bit. MJ would have a chance to get used to the feel of the new bit in his mouth but I would not be able to prove to him that it was a no big deal.

When I got to the stable it was a mixture of good—MJ had his breakfast and was in the wash stall with Addison cleaning his hooves out, and bad—there were a LOT of people in the stable. This week I double masked properly, a surgical mask under a KN95 mask, which made the heat even more miserable. I curried, “brushed” with the Strip Hair, and put on fly spray, then Debbie finally appeared and took over from me. Before long we walked to the ring.

When I mounted I told Debbie I just could not do much at all. I apologized to MJ for not being able to stay up in 2-point and not being able to handle the half-seat for 5 minutes. Every once in a while if his back felt odd I did the half-seat, but I could do it for only a minute or two.

MJ accepted his new Weymouth curb fine even though I could not definitely prove to him that this bit is harmless in my hands. He reached out confidently for contact, and I got the definite feeling that MJ was not worried about defending his tongue from the bit unlike with the previous Elisabeth Weymouth. He “felt” more cheerful to me in spite of the fact that my riding deteriorated in the heat. Overall he felt more relaxed even though I had not been able to do the 5 minutes in 2-point. A good start.

After a few minutes I started to do the sitting trot, first to the right, his usual “bad” side, and his trot was pretty smooth and I let him go on a little bit before going back to the walk. Then we turned in the other direction, the left—MJ's usual “good” side, and his slow trot was much rougher and I was feeling jarred. After that we did half of a 20 meter circle at the sitting trot and this was his usual mix of some smooth strides, then some jarring strides, and then back to his smooth strides.

After that I was all done in. We just walked around, with me using my legs some to get him to move out a little. When it got time for me to stop I ended by asking MJ for his super-slow walk heading toward the gate. He did not get as slow as the last time, but he definitely slowed down without any fretting. Debbie told me that from what she saw I was not using my reins to ask him to slow down, he was obeying my “collecting” lower leg aid. Maybe if I had used the reins too I could have gotten him even slower, but hey, the heat.

It turned out that Zeke, Sam's “giant” WB gelding DID NOT LIKE THE FAGER PELHAM at all, Sam said it was too wide, he did not like it, and he ended up flinging his head around. That was fine with me, it will go in my bit box for the next “giant” horse I ride. By now I have a lot more experience than most people in helping the horse explore a new bit and finding a comfortable spot for it in his mouth so it is conceivable I could get a different reaction from Zeke, but I am willing to wait for the indefinite future since I really prefer riding the smaller horses. In the meantime they found a bit that Zeke seems to like, a Happy Mouth Elevator bit.

I hope I get to ride Cider tomorrow. I spent quite a while in changing the bits on her double bridle, to the new Fager Felicia Weymouth like I tried with MJ, and back to her preferred Fager Alice double jointed bradoon with the roller. The heat is supposed to still be here so I won't be able to keep contact with the Felicia with her, but if she also feels more relaxed and cheerful to me it will stay on her bridle. She is in her late twenties, she is opinionated, and she is much happier with me when I listen to her about her bit preferences.

I am looking forward to cooler weather. I might have to wait a while for it.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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